What comes to mind when you hear (or read) of “the French Reformation”? Most, I suspect, have little knowledge of this aspect of the sixteenth-century Reformation that began in Wittenberg (Luther), and spread through many countries in Europe. The great majority of our readers come from a European context (ethnically and theologically) other than France. Many are tied to the Reformation in the Netherlands by blood lines. Theologically, we connect with Martin Luther in Germany and John Calvin in Geneva. A very small group has ties to French Huguenots (the term used to identify Reformed believers in France). Consequently, France is mostly remembered as the country from which came better known Reformation figures like Farel, Calvin, and Beza. Another factor in this vacuum of knowledge on the French Reformation is that there is no church in France today that exists in number or theological strength (that is, orthodoxy) that one could even recognize as a Reformed church.

This issue of the Standard Bearer is intended to fill some of that vacuum. The Reformation in any country is worth knowing. For, first, the church is one, and that makes the Reformation anywhere, including in France, part of our history. Second, reformation is a work of Jesus Christ who gathers, defends, and preserves His church in that time and place. We can and we ought to rejoice in the work of Christ. As you read on, you will learn of the unique events and characteristics of Christ’s work of reforming His church in France.

This issue contains several short articles—intentionally so. We asked three men to limit their material to one page. And they came close, though with much struggle and anguish on what had to be omitted. We appreciate their strenuous efforts. Many thanks to all the writers for their well researched and well written articles.

I wish to thank Erika Kiel for her excellent work on the design. Erika is our go-to designer for all of our special issues. Although a busy wife (to Bryan) and mother of three young children, when we give her a topic, she goes to work finding pictures and ideas for the magazine. We appreciate Erika’s zeal and hard work, and trust that the reader will take note of her enhancement of the issue.

And finally, a work of thanks to our book editor, Charles Terpstra, for providing the bibliography on the French Reformation. If this issue piques your interest, this list of books will serve as an excellent guide to further reading.

With that, we offer to you the annual Reformation Day issue of the Standard Bearer—the French Reformation.


Timeline of the French Reformation

1489—Birth of William Farel near Gap, France.

1509, July 10—Birth of John Calvin in Noyon, France.

1519, June 24—Birth of Theodore Beza in Vezalay, France.

1521, August 3—The French Parliament prohibits anyone to possess Luther’s works.

1525—The French Parliament authorizes the arrest of those suspected of being Reformed believers.

1533, November 2—Disguised as a farmer, Calvin flees Paris.

1534, October 18—The Affair of the Placards.

1540, June 1—Francis I issues the Edict of Fontainebleau (against Protestants)

1541—The first French edition of Calvin’s Institutes is published.

1547—The burning chambers are created to punish Protestants.

1551, June 27—Henry II issues the Edict of Châteaubriant (against Protestants).

1555—First Reformed congregation in France is openly organized.

1557, July 24—Henry II issues the Edict of Compiègne (against Protestants).

1559—First French Reformed national synod is held in Paris.

1561, January 28—Edict of Orleans (somewhat tolerant of Protestants).

1561, October 9—Colloquy of Poissy (conference between Catholics and Protestants) concludes.

1562, January 17—Edict of St. Germain (somewhat tolerant of Protestants)

1562, March 1—Massacre of Vassy.

1563, March 19—Edict of Amboise. Ends the first religious war; somewhat tolerant of Protestants)

1570, August 8—Peace of St. Germain. Ends the third religious war; reiterates the rights of Protestants.

1572, August 24—St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.

1593, July 25—Henry IV becomes a Roman Catholic.

1598, April 13—Edict of Nantes (very favorable to Protestants)

1620s—The Huguenot rebellions

1629, June 28—The Peace of Alais ends the religious wars, grants some favors to the Huguenots, but restricts their political rights.

1685, October 18—Edict of Fountainebleau (revokes the Edict of Nantes).